A couple weeks ago, we got an email from Chris Kouns, head women’s soccer coach at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. His team had fallen a few spots in our D3 women’s soccer rankings after a 2-1 win at BR-198 Juanita two days prior. The result bumped the Crusaders up to 2-0, but dropped from BR-26 to BR-29 in our rankings. We expected them to beat BR-198 Juanita by more than one goal, so we called the result a “Bad Win” for Capital.
“Bad Wins” and “Good Losses” are terms we use on our site to describe games that finish closer than we thought they should have, and this Juanita vs Capital game was a perfect example. Coach Kouns was familiar with our rankings. He knew data is the basis for everything we do and his team’s drop was nothing personal, but he wanted to provide some context for the game we had called a “Bad Win.”
The Crusaders were playing their second game within a 24 hour period against a team with fresh legs. If that were the extent of things though, I wouldn’t be writing this article. What made Capital’s performance that day so much more than a “Bad Win” wasn’t what happened the day before, but what happened on the way to the game.
As the team bus cruised west on Route 22 through Porter Township, ten minutes from the Juanita campus, they came upon the scene of a very recent car accident – an SUV slammed into an Amish buggy piloted by Daniel Swarey and his wife Mary. I asked coach Kouns to describe what his team saw:
“We rolled up to the accident just moments after it happened. Our bus was travelling in the right hand lane and the left hand lane was blocked with the remnants of the accident. It was truly a horrific sight. Mr. Swarey was on the apron of the road closest to the SUV and what was left of his buggy. Several good Samaritans had rushed to his side and were frantically performing CPR. However, you could clearly see it was in desperation as his legs and back appeared to be broken as they were in positions unnatural for him to be laying on his back. [. . .]
Just up from Mr. Swarey was their poor horse. This beautiful animal was obviously in such pain. It had at least two compound fractures and was desperately lifting it’s head from the puddle of blood it was laying in, however, I am sure it’s back must have been broken because it’s body never moved though it tried mightily. Beside the horse was Mrs. Swarey. She too was the subject of efforts from good Samaritans. Although her body did not seem as broken as Mr. Swarey and the horse you could tell that her injuries must have been massive. She was completely unresponsive and too was laying in the pool of blood. On the embankment beside them was the SUV which had its entire engine compartment smashed in. I can only speculate it would have taken something the size of the horse to have crushed the hood and windshield in the manner it was broken. In front of the SUV was the largest remnant of the buggy a full 20 yards up a hill from the road way.”
Since the Swareys were already receiving aide, there was nothing the team could do but look on in stunned silence as their bus rolled by. Some players cried, some comforted those who were crying, and some stared into space. Ten minutes later they arrived at Juanita.
“Our coach came in and talked to us about how we need to appreciate life and the opportunity we have to play right now,” said Megan Lindbert, sophomore midfielder for Capital. “He also offered support if we needed to talk to anyone. He then began to talk about how we need to try and focus on what we have in front of us.”
Not even an hour had passed from the time the team passed the accident until the first whistle blew.
No one would blame the Capital women if they lost focus. No one would blame them if they lost the game. Playing their second game in as many days, after what they just saw? They could have been run off the field, blown out 10-0, and no one would have held it against them for a second. But that’s not what happened.
The Crusaders’ Amanda Kachaylo opened the scoring in the seventh minute with an assist from junior Maura Fortino. Juanita scored the equalizer on a defensive error twenty-three minutes later, and the two teams went into the half tied at one. Kachaylo wasn’t done though. She added an assist to her score sheet with a pass down the right side to sophomore forward Becca Cartmill, who received Kachaylo’s pass, avoided a defender and put the ball into the back of the net. In the 73rd minute, it was 2-1. That was the final score.
Here at HERO Sports, we love numbers. The BennettRank algorithm is based on a statistical process called regression analysis, a tool used to discern relationships between variables. When it’s tuned correctly, data from prior events can be used to predict future results, and it works more often than it doesn’t.
When viewed through a wide lense this tool works really well but it sometimes breaks down on a smaller scale. The unpredictable, the unforeseen, and the unexpected — the things we love about sports — are the same things that make them so hard to quantify.
Coach Kouns told me, “In our program we preach there are only three things you can control; your work rate, your focus and your effort.”
The BennettRank algorithm seeks to remove the human element from athletics. Its purpose is to measure a team’s worth in goals-for and goals-against and define a group of players by their statistical production. Events like this, and people like the players and coaches of the Capital Women’s Soccer team, are the reason it’s impossible to be totally successful in this endeavor.
After the game, the Capital Women’s team wrote a letter to the Swarey family and bought them a 1903 Minnesota Treadle sewing machine. Coach Kouns said that, “hopefully it will be something practical that will honor their beliefs and at the same time be a reminder of how their lives (and deaths) affected a group of young people from another state, cultural and world.”
Where does something like that fit into the box score?
The “Schedule and Results” section of Capital’s team page on our site will continue to read, “8/30, Juanita, 2-1, Bad Win,” because the BennettRank algorithm thinks they should have won by more. Statistically, Capital’s 2-1 result might have been a “Bad Win,” but to anyone who knows the story, it couldn’t have been better.